Purpose: This study aimed to determine the influence of cold (8°C) and cool (22°C) water immersion on femoral artery and cutaneous blood flow after exercise.
Methods: Twelve men completed a continuous cycle exercise protocol at 70% peak oxygen uptake until a core temperature of 38°C was attained. Subjects were then immersed semireclined into 8°C or 22°C water to the iliac crest for 10 min or rested. Rectal and thigh skin temperature, deep and superficial muscle temperature, thigh and calf skin blood flow (laser Doppler flowmetry), and superficial femoral artery blood flow (duplex ultrasound) were measured before and up to 30 min after immersion. Indices of vascular conductance were calculated (flux and blood flow/mean arterial pressure).
Results: Reductions in rectal temperature were similar (0.6°C–0.7°C) in all three trials (P = 0.38). The mean ± SD thigh skin temperature during recovery was 25.4°C ± 3.8°C in the 8°C trial, which was lower than the 28.2°C ± 1.4°C and 33.78°C ± 1.0°C in the 22°C and control trials, respectively (P < 0.001). Recovery muscle temperature was also lowest in the 8°C trial (P < 0.01). Femoral artery conductance was similar after immersion in both cooling conditions and was lower (∼55%) compared with the control condition 30 min after immersion (P < 0.01). Similarly, there was greater thigh (P < 0.01) and calf (P < 0.05) cutaneous vasoconstriction during and after immersion in both cooling conditions relative to the control condition.
Conclusion: Colder water temperatures may be more effective in the treatment of exercise-induced muscle damage and injury rehabilitation by virtue of greater reductions in muscle temperature and not muscle blood flow.